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Obama: ‘We are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas’

President’s speech in Las Vegas highlights nation’s energy potential

President Obama at UPS in Vegas

Leila Navidi

President Barack Obama speaks at a UPS facility in Las Vegas Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

President Obama waves to the media before boarding Air Force One at McCarran International Airport after a visit to Las Vegas Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012.

President Obama at UPS in Vegas

President Barack Obama speaks at a UPS facility in Las Vegas Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. Launch slideshow »

President Barack Obama proposed major energy policy initiatives in Las Vegas this morning, including a plan to open 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil exploration and development of natural gas resources in the United States.

Flanked by two massive natural gas tankers at a United Parcel Service facility south of McCarran International Airport, Obama told some 200 people that the United States sits over enough natural gas that, if developed, it could provide a relatively carbon-clean energy source for 100 years.

“We are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” he said.

Over 10 years, natural gas development could add 600,000 jobs to the economy, he said. A sop to environmentalists, he added that companies would need to divulge lists of chemicals used when drilling on public lands.

He also chose his visit to Nevada — a swing state that he covets in November — and specifically to the UPS facility, to promote greater use of natural gas as vehicle fuel and the development of a natural gas-fueled corridor for UPS deliveries between Long Beach, Calif., and Salt Lake City.

UPS has benefited by the stimulus bill to purchase a fleet of trucks that run on cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas and to construct a natural gas refueling station.

Obama said he wants to create such corridors throughout the United States.

“We need an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy — a strategy that’s cleaner and cheaper and full of new jobs,” Obama said.

The president also took the opportunity to echo a complaint that has been screamed by the Occupy Wall Street activists: that the wealthiest Americans have, in many cases, lower tax rates. He wants to impose a 30 percent tax rate on those earning $1 million or more — which he said is a lower rate than during the years Ronald Reagan was president — and see no tax increases for those earning under $250,000.

The wealthy don’t need more tax breaks, Obama said. “You’re the ones who deserve a break.”

The audience, some of whom had arrived nearly three hours before his remarks, cheered.

Among them, Las Vegas attorney Matthew Dushoff said that with the only rhetoric being heard being the negative campaigning of Republican presidential candidates, he was glad to hear positive news from the president.

“We got to hear the good that is happening,” Dushoff said, adding that “people seemed to forget where we were four years ago, how Obama inherited an awful economy, how (the United States) was hated by the rest of the world.”

Peggy Ross, visiting from Montana, said she, too, was gratified to hear his positive message.

“But I guess it comes down to whether or not he can get politicians on both sides of the aisle to work with him,” she said. “He has the leadership ability; I just think some people will refuse to work with him no matter what.”

Obama smiled and waved before ducking into Air Force One, signaling the end of an overnight stay.

The president's departure at McCarran International Airport was quick and with little fanfare — no local dignitaries on hand to bid him farewell. He simply exited the limousine and briskly climbed the stairs to Air Force One, not forgetting to give Vegas a cheery goodbye wave.

Obama left the UPS speech and at 12:20 p.m. was in the air heading for Denver, then to Michigan, it was announced, before going back to Washington, D.C.

Jackie Valley contributed to this story.

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